Sunday, 4 May 2014

Brickendon - Pt 2 - The Farm Village

The Brickendon Farm village is a complex of convict-built buildings in a village setting.
William Archer arrived from England in 1824 and joined his brother at Woolmers until moving to land on the opposite side of the Macquarie River. He began building the farm complex in 1824 with Ticket of Leave tradesmen and assigned convict labour developing the first area of Brickendon.

The skills and labour of assigned convict men and women was the key to the prosperity of estates like Brickendon and Woolmers and indeed to the colony of Van Diemen's Land. After conviction they often spent time in the hulks moored in the harbors and dockyards of England.  Eventually they were loaded on to ships bound for the new colonies of NSW and Van Diemen's Land.  On arrival they were assigned to a master or mistress to serve out their sentence.  William Archer often requested convicts who would be useful on the farm i.e. farm laborers’, blacksmiths, carpenters and the like.  Women were also required for domestic service where Caroline Archer would supervise their work and behavior.  The Archers were responsible for feeding, housing and clothing their servants as was the provision of an onsite chapel built for the sole use of convicts – religion being an important part of the reformation of convicts.

Brickendon has remained the same 1150 acres or 465 hectares as originally granted in 1824.  Unlike his brother, William wished to develop Brickendon into a mixed farming enterprise with cropping being a major focus. Convicts spent many days hand digging drains through the farm to improve the soil and many of these drains can still be seen today.

The first timber buildings were erected in the mid-1820s. Specific buildings to house, feed and provide religious instruction for the convict labour included the original barracks, now demolished, cookhouse and chapel. Located on level ground separated by one field from the Macquarie River the farm village comprises a large group of timber or brick buildings set out along roadways framed by hawthorn hedges. The outstanding range of early colonial farm and estate buildings still existing at Brickendon is unusual.

The buildings include:
William Archer’s Cottage: Built with convict labour. Probably the oldest of the Brickendon structures, it was the original homestead from the property. William Archer lived here between 1824 & 1829 until he moved into the newly constructed larger home about a kilometer away. Despite the bad reputation the convicts enjoyed, William wanted to have all the farming men near his house. Thus the farm took shape around his original residence.

Pillar Granary: c.1827. Built with convict labour. This is the only building of its kind in the southern hemisphere. It was constructed on “straddle stones” to keep vermin and water out and to allow good circulation of air to prevent mould in the stored products. This type of construction is characteristic of southern England, the original home of the Archers and many of their convict servants.

Dutch Barns: c. 1827. Built with convict labour. The buildings form an intact and exceptional group of barns. This area was the site of intense activity within the farm, especially during harvest time where the barns were used to store oats hay and straw.

Implement Shed: c.1830s. Built with convict labour. This shed housed the farm machinery, like the threshing machine. Wagons, ploughs and harrows. It was all made and maintained by skilled assigned convicts, which included a wheelwright, a carpenter and several blacksmiths.

Smoke House: 1831. Built with convict labour. An external bakers oven is located on the northern side of the building. A fire was lit in the base of the building  so that the smoke might rise through the hanging meat and help preserve it. Bread was baked in external oven until a newer oven was built in the cook house.

Brick Granary. This was built around 1830 as the production of grain expanded. Wheat was stored here until it could be sold or taken across the river by punt to Woolmers to be ground into flour.

Farm cottage: c.1830s. Built with convict labour. Originally constructed as two buildings for a dairy and overseer’s cottage. Overseer’s were usually either convicts closing in on the ends of their sentences or ex-convicts. They were in a difficult position because they had authority but had more in common with the men under them than with their masters.

Cookhouse: c.1830s. Built with convict labour. The large open fire and bread oven provided meals for all the single men on the farm. None of Brickendon’s men were punished for stealing food or complaining about rations.

Blacksmiths’ shop: c.1830s. Built with convict labour. This was one of the busiest places on Brickendon. Blacksmiths toiled over two forges to produce and repair all the metalwork needed by both Brickendon and Woolmers.

Chapel: c.1840s. The brick single room chapel has a high pitched shingled gable roof, belltower and foyer. Built in Victorian Picturesque Rustic Gothic style the chapel is built on the site of the original convict chapel. Masters were expected to make sure that convicts attended services. Religion was regarded as essential for their reformation. Unfortunately the men didn’t always appreciate the concern for their spiritual wellbeing….Escape attempts generally occurred on Sundays!!

Convicts barracks site. Built with convict labour. The site of the former barracks building c. 1829-30 This building housed the convict workforce. Here they slept, ate, drank, caroused and found refuge.

Sawyer’s pit and site of carpenter’s shop. A site of convict labour. In 1829-30 this area was the domain of wheelwright, Benjamin Cooper, who made everything for the farm from a wagon to a butter churn. The sawpit area was also in constant use where men with bullock teams were kept busy felling trees and bringing the logs from the bush to the sawpit where sawyers turned out planks for new buildings

Working on a large farming property became the most common assignment for convicts. In Tasmania, an average of 54 percent of male convicts were assigned to settlers during the period 1820-1835. The need to provide rations and shelter for convicts favored larger enterprises, as small farmers were less able to support convicts on a consistent basis and would return them to the colonial authorities for reassignment.

Large farming enterprises were labour intensive. Their development was dependent on the availability of cheap labour and convicts were instrumental in the expansion of farming in the colonies. The large country estate quickly became established as the symbol of the assignment system. As estates were generally managed along paternalistic lines it was thought that masters could instill convicts with habits of industry. As one of the larger estates, many convicts worked at Brickendon in the period from the early 1820s to the 1850s.

The Brickendon diary, written by William Archer senior with daily entries from 11 August 1829 until 24 February 1830, documents the daily tasks assigned to the convict workforce, the deployment of bullock teams and the use of specialized convict labour. It provides a fantastic record of the actual experience of assigned convicts which differs greatly from that recorded in the official records, an example being the use of incentives to increase convict productivity particularly at harvest time, the busiest season of the agricultural year. The Brickendon diary provides a real snapshot of an assigned convict workforce on a large country estate.

Brickendon Estate is an outstanding example of an assignment era property, and contains some exceptionally early and important buildings. Brickendon Estate represents an outstanding example of the successes of an industrious 1820s settler family and the productivity of convict labour which established the basis for six generations of the Archer family to develop the estate. All the features relating to the assignment of convicts in the early 19th century still exist at Brickendon, with the exception of the male convict barracks, the site of which can readily be identified and remains undisturbed. Since assignment (or work on a property as a ticket-of-leave or pass holder) was far more common than the experience of punishment, Brickendon could be said to be an excellent example of the typical experience for both male and female convicts. It is a beautifully serene place to spend a day, wandering the grounds checking out the farm buildings and layout, feeding the farm animals etc.

Brickendon Estate is one of 11 historic sites that together form the Australian Convict Sites World Heritage property which were officially listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in July 2010 because of its outstanding significance within the Australian convict system.

A “Must See” visit for the whole family!!!!!!

Main Text & Information Source: Brickendon Information Brochure

2 comments:

  1. Do you have the names of Convicts who may have worked at Brickendon?
    My Convict Ancestor Patrick McCasker was an over seer at this time before moving north when he married in 1827.

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    1. Hi Susan,
      I personally dont have a list but I'm pretty sure the people at Brickendon certainly would. You can try contacting them. Website address/link is on my post.
      Regards
      Geoff

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